Heartworm – Once confined to the tropics, this deadly mosquito borne disease can now affect dogs in all parts of Australia. Even if out-breaks in your region are uncommon, transiting dogs may carry the disease.
Both dogs and cats can be infected with heartworm, which is usually fatal if left undiagnosed or untreated. Even when it is diagnosed, treating heartworm is risky.
A slow and insidious disease, dogs with heartworm seldom show immediate signs of infection.
As heart worm advances, expect to observe:
- low energy levels
- reluctance to exercise
- weight loss
Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm (Dirofilaria immitis) that is spread from host to host by mosquito bite. Heart worm is a type of small thread-like worm known as a filaria and can grow up to 30c, long. The adult worm resides in the pulmonary arterial system (lung arteries) for the most part, and proceeds to damage to the lung vessels and tissue. These can then migrate to the right heart and cause heart failure. Left untreated, your pet will almost certainly die.
Before commencing heart worm treatment—take your dog to the local veterinarian for a blood test. Giving an infected dog heartworm preventative medication is not recommended.
If the test proves negative, heartworm treatment can commence. A positive test result means your dog is infected and will require treatment.
Start heartworm prevention when your puppy is 6 weeks old and keep your dog on it for life. If you miss a dose, consult your vet; your dog may need to be tested before you restart the preventative treatment.
The currently available heartworm preventive medications are very effective, however, few medication claim 100% effectiveness.
There are other factors that need to be considered, such as the dog’s owner forgetting to give the right dose on time – it pays to write the date on the calendar well ahead of time. If the dog is overdue his medication by a couple of weeks, consider consulting the vet, your dog may need to be retested before preventative heart worm medication is resumed.
Another problem may occur when the dog spits out the medication – often out of site. This can result in the dog becoming infected. A yearly heartworm test along with the carefully supervised administration of the drug is the best way to control heart worm in dogs.
This is general information only, consult an animal health specialist for all health issues. See Legal Disclaimer
Tags: dog heart worm, dogs heartworm, heartworm